I can’t believe it’s not Stelvin!

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There are those who cling to the ‘romance’ and ‘tradition’ of popping the cork prior to imbibing.  Then there are those who think such ‘romance’ and ‘tradition’ are ridiculous if these totems potentially mean stinking, spoiled wine.  Both camps have valid points.  I’m a sentimental, shmoopy sucker for the romance involved in popping the cork.  But then, If I’ve dropped 40 or 50 clams, and my just-popped bottle of wine smells like a box-full of soggy, old Boys Life magazines, I set up camp amongst the pro screw-cap crowd.


Must the wine lover chose between faulty corks and sterile Stelvins when it comes to bottle closure?  Would that there were a closure, which could preserve in an aesthetically appealing manner.  Thank the cosmos for Vino-Lock.  This glass stopper is much prettier than a Stelvin and, of course, more reliable than cork oak bark cylinders.

Just a few weeks ago I took home the first glass-stopped wine to appear in the wine shop.  I loved it.  And the wine wasn’t too bad either.

Cusumano IGT Sicily Merlot 2006 ($12) – A simple, exuberant Merlot made more appealing by its aesthetically cool glass stopper.  This inky-purple wine offers scents of cherry jelly and baked strawberry.  Its flavors a simply tangy fruit.  Cusumano Merlot is nothing if not pleasant and eager to accompany pizza.

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Gutenberg Would be Proud: The Juice in Print

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If you happen to dwell in the land of hard copy, check out the current issue of Salt Lake Magazine.  Whilst neglecting Basic Juice in cyberspace, I have been nurturing it in the world of print.  Alas, I am still struggling to multitask.

For those who eschew paper, have a look at the extended, ‘Author’s Cut’ of the article below the fold.

This I Sip

Chances are you’ve read many a wine article wherein the author recommends a particular bottle or two.  What exactly does one do with such recommendations?  Do you accept them on blind faith, dutifully seek out said bottles and schlep them home?  Of course you do!  We all do.  Everyone trusts and accepts expert opinions on all manner of topics – movies, restaurants, music and, of course, wine.  However, there comes a time when one realizes that expert opinions on matters of taste, are essentially just that – opinions.  For example, recall the last time you sat through a painfully bad, critic-recommended film and thought, “I’ll never follow
that guy’s advice again.”  Experts and critics may know more about their specialty than you, but your tastes may be dramatically different.  Taste, particularly when it comes to wine, is exceedingly personal.  An expert may guide you in a general direction, but the final arbiter of taste, is you and your palate.  The take home message is this:  It pays to know a wine critic’s palate before plunking down 10/20/30 bucks for a bottle you may very well despise. 

Over the coming months, I will recommend hundreds of wines in this space.  Some you will adore, others may be consigned to the dubious category of “cooking wine.”  However, I will always do my best to explain what I like about a particular wine.  I will open my mouth – as it were – and attempt to expose every nook and cranny of my wine palate.  I don’t expect readers to employ oeno-faith and blindly follow my recommendations.  Rather, at some point, I hope our tastes connect and a wine idea put forth in this column, yields exciting discovery and fond memories.  So, in lieu of a personal introduction, allow me to introduce my wine palate, in two parts.  This, I sip – the whites.

It’s An Acquired Taste – Everyone has that one beloved specialty food that makes others cringe (Think: Kipper snacks, Brussels sprouts or Vienna sausages).  “It’s an acquired taste.” You say.  I love dry Sherry.  It’s wonderfully weird wine – slightly nutty, aggressively tangy, delightfully funky and very much an acquired taste.  My favorite Sherry combo is utterly simple: An Amontillado Sherry (Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado, $18) with oven-roasted almonds is a fiesta of out-of-the-ordinary flavors.  If you’re the type who relishes the challenge of acquiring tastes, give Sherry a try.

Cheap and Cheerful
– Let’s face it; acquiring taste is demanding work.  Occasionally, I long for something uncomplicated.  Wine doesn’t need to be complicated.  There are plenty of good, simple wines.  When I would rather sip than ponder, I go for budget-priced Austrian Grüner Veltliner (Berger Grüner Veltliner 2005, $12).  This wine is simple, refreshing and exceedingly flexible with food.  Budget Grüner compliments almost any entrée exiting the oven or flying off the stovetop.  Cheap and cheerful wines like this don’t catalyze any epiphanies.  Rather, they cause one simply to remark, “That’s good.”

I’m Feeling Naughty
– Admit it.  Every so often you yearn to do something off-the-wall – something naughty.  Of course, following through on such impulses can lead to a heap of trouble.  When I yearn for naughtiness, I grab a bottle of decadent Alsatian Gewurztraminer (Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Laurence, $40).  Gewurz-based wine has a tendency to grab one’s schnozz and hypnotize with scents of lychee, apricot, mango and honeysuckle.  The talented vintners in Alsace often introduce a layer of naughty to this decadent wine by incorporating a small portion of overripe grapes into the cuvée.  The result is wine with an added scent dimension best described as earthy (or dirty).  The indulgence doesn’t end here.  These wines possess a very thick & cheek-coating mouthfeel.  Indeed, drinking such wine feels a little bit naughty.  Try Gewurztraminer with salmon sashimi and commit an indulgent act of gastronomy.

Other White Palate Pleasers

Acquiring That Taste: Aveleda Vinho Verde NV, $8; Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Crianza 1995, $25; Feudo Arancio Grillo Sicilia 2005, $9

Cheap and Cheerful: Saint M Riesling 2005, $10; Segura de Viudas Brut Cava, $9; Santa Julia Torrontes 2006, $7

Naughty, Naughty: Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvee LD 1995, $33; Twisted Oak Viognier, $26; Pine Ridge Chenin Viognier 2006, $12

Coming in Part II, I introduce a few of my preferred, palate-pleasing red wines.

The Reds coming in Part 2

Business in the Front, Party in the Back

I Lost 2 Pounds!  Let’s Gain it Back

My Imaginary Smoking Jacket

Comments/Questions: Email Beau at beau@basicjuice.com

Find more wine ideas at basicjuice.blogs.com

Not Good with Turkey

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This time of year the wine lover is inundated with T-day wine recommendations…"German Riesling is perfect with turkey"…."A Beaujolais is a sure bet on Thanksgiving"…."Burgundy, both red and white are ideal on your Thanksgiving"…..etc. etc.

I for one am tired of staid poultry & stuffing wine pairing suggestions. 

How about something different to eat and drink on Friday – the day after turkey day?  May I suggest a Vermentino, not from the sardinian coast, but from Lodi, California.  Who knew the California version of this hefty-spicy-herby-citrusy grape could be so true to its Italian roots?  After racking up mo’ mo’ credit card debt on Friday, take the edge of with a plate of turkey enchiladas paired to Uvaggio Vermentino 2006 ($10).   It will be the best wine-food match you will sample all week.

Juice Crew Red Label: The Finalists

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The judges have narrowed the field down to three finalists.  To the Juice Crew members: Please vote for your favorite label by sending a message to me by 5 December.  I will tally up the votes and announce the winning design shortly thereafter.  Thanks to all the contestants!

Design 1


Design 2 (font + label concept)



Design 3


It’s Not Big It’s Large

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The adjective ‘big’ as it relates to wine often carries a slightly negative connotation.  Well, if not a overtly negative, then at least, fairly rough.  A big red wine is more often lauded for its power than its beauty.  Perhaps those big wines that also maintain an air of nuance should be referred to as ‘large’ or ‘grand’.


When it comes to large, grand wines, one of the world’s up and coming regions is Canada’s Okanagan Valley in BC.  In fact, one of Canada’s biggest wine-glomerates, VinCor, has partnered with a band in Bordeaux (Groupe Taillan) to develop grand Bordeaux-style winery.  Osoyoos Larose produces complex, character-full grand/large wine.  The 2004 Petales d’Osoyoos (~$27)  may be a 2nd label wine, but it’s also lovely and grand.  Petales is largely blackberry, earthy spice and plum preserves.  If you happen to live near the 49th Parallel, matriculate over the border and grab this wine for turkey day.  At a minimum, try it before the Loonie laps the Greenback on the exchange front and the wine costs you as much as a ‘first label’ vino.

If you’re still having difficulty wrapping your brain around the whole Big v. Large concept, let Lyle teach you.  His band is most definitely large rather than big.  Listen here. 


Read a Canuck Wino perspective on big wine here.

Old Wine Bloggers Never Die, They Just Write for the Gazette

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For those who have been around the wine blog-o-sphere for a few years, the Caveman’s blog was a gem.  Bill Z. offered world class wine knowledge with a down-to-earth attitude.  Like many blogs (this one included) the Caveman posted less regularly, and then poof!  it became frozen in time (kind of like Han Solo in Empire). 

Well, my pal Bill, the Caveman, is back and writing for the Montreal Gazette.  It’s good to see his voice is being appreciated by those lucky folks in Quebec.

"It was my first evening back working the floor as a sommelier. I was invigorated after an exceptional week touring and tasting wine in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon.

My second table that night was a couple from France, so I started going on and on about the place, even recommending to them one of my favourite wines from the region. They looked at me and said, "Yes, it’s beautiful there, but we would never drink their wines."

Read the rest of the column here.

Good on ya Bill!


(Aww Bill you look like Big Parks!)

Hey, NZ! Hold Everything.

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I’ve often wondered why New Zealand was anointed/anointed itself as the land of Sauvignon Blanc.  To be sure, NZ SB has been quite successful as an import to the US wine market (and certainly names like ‘Monkey Bay’ don’t hurt its mass appeal to the garanimal-wine-loving crowd).  However, I think this success has come at a price.  Kiwi Blanc has overshadowed every other grape variety.  And this is a very sad thing.

Think about it.  When was the last time you sampled a New Zealand Riesling or Gewurztraminer?  These grapes have found a very cozy home on the Islands way down under.  In fact, while I find most New Zealand Sauvi Blanc, easy-to-enjoy, I also find it a tad bit uni-dimensional (see here for a great descriptor of NZ SB).  I have discovered extraordinarily sublime Riesling and intoxicating (in the figurative sense of the word) Gewurz.  Think I’m nuts.  Take this little NZ non-SB challenge:

Huia Gewurztraminer 2006 – A chewy, thick wine, which echos the Alsatian style but with a bit less earth

Villa Maria Riesling 2005 – A remarkable feat of a wine.  This Riesling stews together new world heft with teutonic crispness.

Am I alone in thinking the OenoKiwis might want to diversify their white wine portfolio?

A Case for Creativity (AKA Free Wine!)

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Are you the Mac-daddy/-mommie when it comes to creativity? 

Have you ever looked at all the blasé wine labels out there and thought, "I could do so much better."? 

Well, here’s a chance to explore your creative side and score a case of a soon-to-be classic red wine – Juice Crew Red.

So far, the J.Crew has nicknamed our maturing vino, "The Mighty Brick."  I think we’d like the label to reflect her personality (perhaps listening to a little Rick James could inspire potential label designers out there):

"So all and all, the blend has resulted in what we wanted – a rich rhone style wine with some backbone. The different varietals playing nicely in the sandbox. Great dark color, long sexy legs and built to party"

Here’s the deal – submit a label design, which reflects our sexy Rhone brickhouse and you could win…1 case of JC Red.  Now that’s what I call a case for creativity!

Submit* your design entry by November 15, 2007.  The editor will select 3 designs to be voted on by Juice Crew members and Basic Juice readers.  The winning designer
will receive the case of Juice Crew Red when it’s released (we award no wine before its time).

*by submitting a design, designer retains no rights to design, but will be credited by name

Gentlepeople, start your creative engines..

A Question of Eis

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Reader Dag from Norway (Oslo rep-re-sents!) poses a question about Eiswein:

"May I raise a question after a discussion we had in Luxembourg recently, about icewein.

Must be picked at minus 7 degrees and pressed while still frozen.

But, I was once told that there is also something else happening to the wine stock at minus 7. That some “elements” are withdrawn from the grape during this freezing process, which also contributes to the divine taste of eiswein. Therefore, real eiswein should/must be made this way ??

Have you heard about this process and which elements are withdrawn ??

Hope you have the answer.

Eager to hear from you.

Best regards from an eiswein lover in Norway."

Well, Dag.  Allow me to first refer you to a fun article I wrote a few years ago called, "Ripeness or Ruin."  It is my understanding that the divine taste of Eiswein is derived from the fact that the extract is devoid of most, if not all, water (since it’s frozen).  Thus the extract is fruit-essence goodness (sugars, -ols, etc.), which apparently ferments slower than typical must.  Perhaps the combo of less/no water and slower fermentation adds to the otherworldly flavor of Eiswein.

Any Eis-experts out there care to chime in?